Case Studies

Thought leadership webinar: high rises

by Mark Rowe

High rise buildings were the subject for the latest, the 37th, OSPAs thought leadership webinar, by Prof Martin Gill of Perpetuity Research this afternoon. The speakers were Geoff Craighead, Vice President of Allied Universal (in the United States, author of a reference book published by Elsevier on high rise security); Parnell Lea, Director, Security & Life Safety at Brookfield Properties (based in western Canada); Jody Reid, Security Manager at The Bow, H&R REIT (Calgary, Canada); and Charles Swanson, the UK-based freelance security and risk management consultant, himself an author of the just-published (by Routledge) Professional Security Management: A Strategic Guide.

The webinar heard that while occupancy of offices may not be high now, due to lockdown, office workers may return in the autumn. The health and safety risks in high rises are obvious, particularly in stairways and elevators. Hence a move to touchless electronic access control readers, although such solutions may not be appropriate for higher security areas that have required manual inputting of an access credential. Touchless opening, replacing door handles, also can reduce the risk of passing on coronavirus in high-traffic areas such as doors to toilets, restaurants and possibly stairwells (if permitted).

Charles Swanson stressed the need to ‘think like a criminal’; echoing earlier webinars, notably the 27th, when two offenders described how they saw the lockdown pandemic as a ‘field day’, offering opportunity for theft. He made the case for CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), such as thinking in terms of surveillance and territoriality; and the use of situational crime prevention.

Security officers and teams in high rises were also covered; and what the security budget might turn out to be, depending on tenancy of a building – if less office space is leased, budgets may have to be cut, no matter how good a job Security has done.

As for the work done by Security during Covid-19 so far, speakers stressed the need for communication, to keep staff motivated and to show appreciation, whether by ‘treats and snacks’ or words and letters of thanks; or regularly scheduled Zoom meetings, for managers and contract provider to ‘show their face’ to others, better than through a memo; and to take questions.

What might the high rise and its security look like, in months to come? The webinar heard of a case of half of the turnstiles between a lobby area and the elevators being taken out, to allow for social distancing. Changes so far may have to keep evolving – as it might not be practical to keep restrictions on numbers of people in an elevator, and to get everyone that wants to into and out of a building in quick time. Fire drills and test evacuations have been waived or suspended for the time being; might there be scope for virtual drills?

The next webinar, on Thursday, July 30 is about installers and integrators; speakers are –

Graham Bolton – International Director at CSL Group (UK);
John Fleming – General Manager at the Australian security industry association ASIAL;
Richard Jenkins – Chief Executive at National Security Inspectorate (UK); and
Joe Masciocco – President at SI Technologies (United States).

You can sign up, and see pervious webinars, at

Picture by Mark Rowe; central London view looking south (left background; The Shard).

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